Canadian Network to Fight U.S. Super Bowl Ad Ruling

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Bell Media asked the federal appeals court to overturn a CRTC order that will force the broadcaster to air American ads during the big game starting in 2017.

Canadian broadcaster Bell Media has asked the federal appeals court to help keep local ads on its annual Super Bowl telecast rather than be forced to air glitzy American commercials during the big game.

The CRTC, Canada's TV watchdog, in late January said it will end an annual Canadian rite where TV viewers must watch local commercials that replace glitzy American counterparts on the U.S. feed. The new Super Bowl ad policy centers on Canada's decades-old simultaneous substitution rules, which allows local broadcasters to replace American commercials on any U.S. show with Canadian ads to boost airtime revenue.

But Bell Media, in its motion for leave to appeal, argued that it has a deal with the NFL for exclusive Canadian TV rights to the Super Bowl. The broadcaster claims the CRTC stops the broadcaster from fully exploiting those rights.

"The CRTC’s decision to disallow simultaneous substitution during the Super Bowl starting in 2017 interferes with Bell Media’s rights and benefits under the NFL agreement," the TV network stated. "The practical effect of the CRTC’s simultaneous substitution decision would be to retrospectively override significant terms of this agreement." 

The CRTC in its January ruling said it will maintain simultaneous substitution rules for the rest of American programming on conventional Canadian TV sets, beyond the Super Bowl. But that's bringing little comfort to domestic broadcasters, which rely on simultaneous substitution to put around $250 million into their coffers each year.

Canadian TV producers in turn fear the CRTC tinkering with the simultaneous substitution rules will reduce the broadcasters' content expenditure obligations as part of their broadcast licenses.

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